Header image for news printout

United Nations Food Systems Summit 2021
Pre-Summit Session: Human Rights – A Unified Framework for Food Systems Transformation

Statement by United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet

27 July 2021

The upcoming UN Food Systems Summit is a crucial opportunity for joint action towards sustainable and climate positive food systems.

It is an opportunity we simply must not miss.

Estimates indicate that more than two billion people currently do not have access to adequate food.

Global food insecurity has worsened sharply during the COVID-19 crisis, which has disrupted the livelihoods of small-scale farmers and the entire global food supply chain.

The people who are most affected are those who are poorest and most marginalized, including women, people from minority communities, children, migrants, indigenous peoples, internally displaced, people with disabilities, older people and those living in conflict-affected areas.

Unless we take urgent action, these populations will continue to face higher risk of malnutrition and greater vulnerability to threats such as COVID-19.

The right to adequate food is an inclusive right. It is a right to all nutritional elements that a person needs to lead a healthy and active life, and to the means to access them.

Human rights are essential in making sure food systems prioritize people's health and wellbeing.

The human rights framework helps us all identify patterns of discrimination, which are often among the root causes of hunger and malnutrition.

It provides normative and policy guidance to design resilient and people-centred food systems, prioritizing the most vulnerable and marginalized groups.

A human rights-based approach encourages financial support to small-scale farmers and fishers. It ensures they have access to credit, land, seeds, natural resources and technology – to support their livelihoods, and to facilitate their shift towards sustainable farming and fishing.

This shift is crucial for a healthy environment and healthy nutrition – advancing both the right to food and the right to health.


Gender equality is essential for sustainable and equitable food systems.

Rural women make up one quarter of the world's population, and they play a crucial role – maintaining and improving rural livelihoods and strengthening rural communities, as well as protecting rural ecosystems and combating climate change.

But despite their contributions, rural women suffer disproportionately from extreme poverty and exclusion.

They are pushed to the margins because of systemic discrimination in access to land and natural resources, education, health care and infrastructure, including water and sanitation.

They face gender-based violence and are often denied access to justice and effective legal remedies.

They are also more likely to be excluded from leadership and decision-making positions at all levels.

We need to eradicate all forms of discrimination related to access to land, natural resources and inheritance.

We need bold action to empower women and dismantle harmful gender stereotypes. We need far-reaching education and awareness raising campaigns on gender equality.

Human rights work in synergy, and a human rights-based approach to food systems calls for access to information, full participation and transparent and accountable processes.

Access to education and information is crucial so that people can obtain knowledge on nutrition and healthy diets. which is a critical element of national roadmaps for the transformation of food systems.

Social protection is a critical tool for facilitating access to health care, protecting people against poverty and ensuring the satisfaction of basic economic and social rights, including food, water, housing, health and education. The provision of social protections can also substantially contribute to healthy and sustainable diets.

Excellencies and colleagues,

To recover better from the pandemic and to deliver on all 17 Sustainable Development Goals, we need much stronger action to advance all human rights.

That includes building the equitable and healthy food systems that are essential for realization of the right to adequate food.
Your support for human rights-based food systems – national, regionally and globally – will be key to the success of this effort.

Thank you.